I've heard that adding lemon juice to your cooked meat can help to reduce bad bacteria. Is that true? What other ingredients that one can add to meat to reduce bacteria?

  • 6
    If you've got some specific health concern that you're trying to address, then please be more specific. Otherwise this is going to be closed as off-topic, as it evidently appears to be more about health than it does about cooking (not to mention sounding a whole lot like pseudoscience).
    – Aaronut
    Commented Dec 20, 2011 at 6:39
  • @Aaronut, actually, there is no specific health concern that I was trying to address. The reason for asking is that I saw a article (cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/12992/…) which mention that heat will kill 99.999% of bacterias and so was wondering if the rest of the percentage of bacterias can be removed by adding special ingredient(s) to the meat to make it closer to 100%. Commented Dec 20, 2011 at 7:20
  • The only thing that will kill 100% of bacteria is sterilization (which practically, for food, means incineration). What I'm more concerned about here is "growing good bacteria in your digestive system" - what exactly is that supposed to mean?
    – Aaronut
    Commented Dec 20, 2011 at 14:36
  • 1
    @Aaronut: you must have weird home canning guides in Canada. E.g., the USDA/NCHFP guide recommends 50–70°F and ones year or less for quality, and under 95°F for safety
    – derobert
    Commented Dec 20, 2011 at 21:03
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    @AndersonKaru: The 95°F for food safety has to do with the that the mason jars (or, rather, their lids) may fail, and once the seal is lost, bacteria can again invade. Its also important to remember that canning doesn't stop chemistry. Quality declines over time (including nutritional losses, e.g., vitamin C breaks down), and (generally speaking) the higher the temperature, the quicker it happens. Store a commercially-canned food at 100°F, and it'll probably still be safe. But taste-wise, you'll probably gladly hand the contents over to bacteria...
    – derobert
    Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 16:58

3 Answers 3


Meats that have been properly stored (refrigerated for short-term storage of up to several days, frozen or canned for long-term storage) and cooked to safe internal temperatures should be free of harmful levels of bacteria, bacterial toxins, and parasites. From the USDA FS&IS "Is It Done Yet?" brochure:

  • Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145 °F as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook meat to higher temperatures.
  • Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160 °F as measured with a food thermometer.
  • Cook all poultry to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer.

The USDA site has a wealth of information on food safety, including proper storage and special considerations for at-risk populations (e.g., diabetes, cancer, HIIV/AIDS, organ transplant recipients).

Other concerns are probably best addressed with a health-care professional.


Some extra notes on this question:

Chemically treating meat to impede or eliminate bacterial growth is not the most effective way. While adding an acid such as lemon juice or vinegar typically helps in preventing growth some types of bacterium, it's not effective on all types and it toughens the meat.

For example, Helicobacter pylori (H.Pylori) even thrives in acidic environment. See this article from Argonne National Laboratory on bacteria growth in different pH levels.

Many meat processing plants add Nitrates and Nitrites such as Sodium Nitrite. Nitrates in this process end up turning into Nitrites which are reducing agents (as opposed to oxidization agents such as acids) and prevent bacteria growth, particularly botulism. However, nitrites can react with degradation products of amino acids in meats and form nitrosamines which are known carcinogens. Some 'natural' meats are treated with cultured celery root extract which naturally contain nitrites and mixed with meat pose the same threat (if not more since it's harder to control the dosage).

A note on botulism and canned meat. Botulism spores are activated in the absence of oxygen and it is the toxins produced by the bacteria (essentially botox) that is the threat. This means that they can grow in a can if the spores aren't killed. And the spores are harder to kill (requires higher temperature and more time).

Traditionally, horseradish (wasabi) was served with raw fish (sashimi/sushi) under the impression that it would kill microbes and bacteria in the fish. Again, this turns out not to be totally effective, even though it may help.

To summarize, it is difficult to treat meat with any ingredient or set of ingredients that would eliminate all types of bacteria and not impose risk on human health. Your best bet is to follow proper food safety procedures and get to know the source of your meat the best you can.

  • From what I've understood about H.Pylori, it tries escaping stomach acids by destroying stomach cells which produces alkalies and neutralizes the acids.
    – Nav
    Commented Jan 20, 2022 at 13:43

As cook (and student/teacher of it) and as a woman who doesn't wish to give bad food to the family.

  • when fresh meat is green or greenish, be thrown
  • when it changes smell without changing color, if the smell is not much, you can help by cooking with lemon, vinegar, wine, beer, garlic - these acidic ingredients help to disinfect
  • the addition of herbs can help to cover the smell, but it does not sanitize the meat (but we do not want to "cover", we also want an improved product)

by shopping

  • the flesh exposed to the air becomes dark red (it is normal), but must be red (light red) when cut
  • never buy meat that appears light red on the counter, because it has been treated with chemical additives and dyes
  • never buy meat that is dark to cut, because it is old (probably already entered into decomposition) (considering that the meat starts to decompose as soon as the animal dies)
  • never buy meat that, in the box or on the bench, releases water, because it is meat that has been frozen - the water comes from freezing, which separates the molecules of water and thaw for the first
  • never buy meat in the box, where below shows an absorbent, designed precisely to hide this freezing water
  • same is for fish


  • always buys meat very fresh, as explained above
  • fill yourself freezing, with the proper system of rapid freezing that now all freezers have
  • thaws (very slowly) only what you need for the next day, before going to the refrigerator
  • cook the meat to the maximum within 24 h after thawing
  • when the meat is well cooked, as soon as it is cold you can refreeze, with the same rules of frozen meat from fresh
  • if the meat is cooked "rare", with the inside red or pink, you can not refreeze - there are other ways to re-use quickly
  • if the freezer breaks down and you find yourself with half a ton of meat thawed quickly: you have to roll up their sleeves and cook everything in a flash, all that is not cooked within a few hours should be thrown away


  • make canned meat (or under glass) home is very difficult, you have to have safe meat and jars disinfected with care, sterilization safe and carefully executed.

even if everything is done perfectly, it can happen a fermentation

  • The good cans of meat should do ("flushhhh") when you open it, because air enters

  • Never use food in cans that have swollen the lid = this means that there is fermentation with gas production: Throw everything without regret.


  • cook red meat with blood, if you like, but should be eaten within a few hours
  • well-done red meat should be eaten within 24 hours
  • cook the fish well but not too much otherwise it becomes hard
  • cook the white meat (veal) very well, but not too much otherwise it becomes hard
  • Cook the chicken very well to avoid viruses (H5N1, H7N9)
  • Cook the pork very, very well, to avoid the pork tapeworm (tenia solium)

It is obvious that a family mother can not live with the microscope in hand, on the other side she would not be able to use. The above rules are not few but can be followed easily by anyone to avoid unnecessary risks.

Remember that most of bacteria are living in our body yet, so doesn't need to be too fearful.

(sorry for my english)

  • 1
    @violadprile che bella inglese, non scusarti.
    – MandoMando
    Commented Apr 18, 2013 at 18:54
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    Be careful with meat safety. There's some interesting thoughts in this answer, but also some that are decidedly risky. The part near the top seems especially ill-advised. Please read other food safety tips here on SA.SE or (better) from actual experts, before taking chances with your food.
    – hunter2
    Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 17:15

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